An aged care provider is holding a physical and digital art exhibition with artworks selected from a competition that aimed to help residents remain connected and engaged during COVID-19.

Uniting NSW ACT launched the ‘Art while we’re apart’ competition in response to physical distancing restrictions resulting from the pandemic.

It aimed to use art therapy to keep residents connected with the community.

The competition drew  over 500 entries from nearly 250 clients across Uniting’s residential aged care homes, senior’s gym and retirement living services.

The artworks are now displayed online as a digital showcase across six categories including painting and drawing, craft and textiles, music, photography and video, written and spoken word and innovative.

A physical exhibition launched on 28 October at Arjo Australia in Macquarie Park in Sydney with a winner and three merit prizes awarded for each category.

The Art while we’re apart physical exhibition launched on 28 October

Uniting lifestyle specialist Vanessa Ogborne came up with the idea for the art competition and exhibition after watching the Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly speak about COVID and how the greatest artworks have come out of crises and pandemics.

“I heard that and I thought that it was important to give our residents their opportunity to create their greatest work,” Ms Ogborne told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“COVID-19 forced us to find new ways to support our people and they took up their paint brushes with gusto,” she said.

She said the exhibition has allowed aged care recipients to remain connected.

“It was wonderful to see that people were staying connected throughout the process by sharing ideas and even collaborating on artworks,” she said.

The feedback from residents about the exhibition has been positive, Ms Ogborne said.

“We’ve had so many residents to call and say thank you for the opportunity during this time. I’ve found it incredible that we’ve been able to have such support behind the event from board to resident to client,” she said.

“A family member even said to me ‘what a way to record history’. And I think that comment is one of the most fascinating parts of this exhibition. People will always know this as a story from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ms Ogborne said her favourite artworks are the poems and paintings.

“I would look at these artworks as I was curating them and it would make me cry. I was engaging with some of these artworks for seven days and the boldness also shook me,” she said.

“I love an untitled painting of a mother and her child, which spoke to maternal nature, as well as a drawing that won our bold award titled Isolation. The artists just grabbed me and captured the moment,” Ms Ogborne said.

Ms Ogborne said Uniting will hold more art competitions and exhibitions in the future.

“We’ll probably have to call it something else, but the pandemic has forced ingenuity and we don’t want to throw that out when it is over,” she said.

The winners for each category are:

  • Elizabeth Rigby – painting and drawing
  • A team of residents from Uniting’s Quong Tart home – craft and textiles
  • Roger Millard – music
  • Julia Wong – photography and video
  • Cynthia Kilburn – written and spoken word
  • A team at Uniting’s New Lambton’s Healthy Living for Seniors – innovative

View the digital exhibition here.

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